I had my first occasion to check out the work of the Vampire Cowboys last night, and checked out "Men of Steel" their latest.
What was once considered the domain only of an eight grader's basement (science fiction, anime, kung fu, superheroes, professional wrestling) has entered the popular adult media in a huge way in the last few years. The very people that once obsessed about Crisis on Infinite Earths and Star Trek when they were kids, are now in their thirities and writing Lost and Battlestar Galactica and The Amazing Adventures of Cavalier and Clay. We're using an increasingly mature aesthetic to engage with the mythology of our youth.
"Men of Steel," for all its bombast and camp, seems like a love letter from a fan to the deconstructionist comics that cropped up in the 1980s and have continued to this day. It's got allusions to Kingdom Come, The Death of Captain America, Batman: Year One, The Dark Knight Returns. Yes, the fight scenes are fun and acrobatic, the acting is pretty damn great (I especially enjoyed Paco Tolson), and the interim films are beautifully put together. But what surprised me most was how steeped in the lore of this iconography the play was, and how it never seemed to apologize for it or treat the audience like anything less than knowing fans.
In short, it's a fine time, and far more sensitively put together than I expected walking in.
On a side note, the play has one idea that I found particuarly compelling: the idea that someone who is indestructible who allow himself to be abused in order to make money. It's a rich psychological idea, and a terribly sad thing to contemplate. I, of course, just loved it.
- Matthew Freeman is a Brooklyn based playwright with a BFA from Emerson College. His plays include THE DEATH OF KING ARTHUR, REASONS FOR MOVING, THE GREAT ESCAPE, THE AMERICANS, THE WHITE SWALLOW, AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR, THE MOST WONDERFUL LOVE, WHEN IS A CLOCK, GLEE CLUB, THAT OLD SOFT SHOE and BRANDYWINE DISTILLERY FIRE. He served as Assistant Producer and Senior Writer for the live webcast from Times Square on New Year's Eve 2010-2012. As a freelance writer, he has contributed to Gamespy, Premiere, Complex Magazine, Maxim Online, and MTV Magazine. His plays have been published by Playscripts, Inc., New York Theatre Experience, and Samuel French.